XML Production Workflows
Converting data from one format to another can be a tedious, redundant and costly affair. Especially, when dealing with a large amount of data with complex structures that requires you to follow stringent quality measures to produce error-free output. It gets even more challenging if the required output needs to be in more than one format, or if the data has the tendency to change overtime (simplest example being a telephone directory that requires it to be updated every year and be available in both printed and digital formats).
Most data we deal with generally has a structure. For example, a magazine will have articles which further 'structures' to article title, content, author details and further information. Article content can further have introduction, photos, source information, metadata and the content itself. Magazines also have advertisement sections which can be categorized further. In the publishing industry, when the structured data need to be represented in some predefined formats (such as books, journals, magazines, e-books, etc.), one can always look for innovative ways to store, fetch and transform the data in a way that keeps production processes manageable and cost-effective.
XML and Data
For years now, XML(Extensible Mark-up Language) has become an integral part of the publishing industry (as it has in other industries as well). XML is used mainly to author and manage structured data. Advantage of XML is its simplicity, flexibility, extensibility and its ability to be transformed to various formats with a single underlying mark-up. XML content can be used and displayed across all kinds of digital and print media formats, such as book layout applications, magazines, eBook readers, websites, news feeds, database applications, smartphone apps, etc.
XML Workflows in Publishing
Over the years now, publishers across the world have begun realizing the importance of XML in their day-to-day production processes. Simply put, XML workflows are flexible solutions implementing XML and related technologies, that are designed to facilitate production automation in a way that requires minimal human intervention while producing excellent quality outcomes. XML can be integrated at various stages of a production lifecycle. In an XML-First workflow, for e.g., content is created in XML format at an initial phase and then following phases implement this XML data to produce one or more outputs.
In an XML-Middle approach, XML (or its derived formats such as XHTML, IDML) is introduced somewhere in the mid stages of a production lifecycle where it is easier to generate outputs on-the-fly, for instance.
In some instances, an XML-Last workflow approach is implemented, whereby XML is exported as a final format to facilitate certain operations such as archiving and database integration.